Aument augments support for venerable borough facility

By on November 16, 2016
Savoring a special time commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Adamstown branch of the YMCA are (from left) Ralph Vedder, board member; Justin Baas, program director; Jim Leisey, longtime member and former executive director; state Sen. Ryan Aument; Alyssa Raven, branch executive; Kim Johnson, executive director of the YMCA of Reading and Berks County; and Lisa Getz. Photo by Michele Walter Fry

Savoring a special time commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Adamstown branch of the YMCA are (from left) Ralph Vedder, board member; Justin Baas, program director; Jim Leisey, longtime member and former executive director; state Sen. Ryan Aument; Alyssa Raven, branch executive; Kim Johnson, executive director of the YMCA of Reading and Berks County; and Lisa Getz. Photo by Michele Walter Fry

As state Sen. Ryan Aument presented officials of the Adamstown YMCA with a citation honoring its 60th anniversary on Nov. 7, he was effusive about his interest in the institution.

“I like to talk a lot about economic opportunity, ensuring that all citizens and young residents in Lancaster County have the opportunity to experience earned success,” said Aument at the facility. “Strong, vibrant communities are a critical component of that, so I’m a strong supporter of non-profits and volunteer organizations that do important work.”

When a senator shows up to deliver a citation, he or she gets a lot of notice, but most of the attention went to Jim Leisey, and Aument was happy to share the spotlight.

Leisey was a full-time employee of the Bollman Hat Co. for 56 years and for 40 of those years, he had another full-time job with the Y. He was a program director and later, executive director.

“I’d get up at three in the morning and worked for 56 years; I didn’t sleep,” joked Leisey. “The director here quit suddenly and I was asked to run it until they got somebody. They never got anybody.”

A t-shirt with Leisey’s name is one of the only decorations in the gym. He still lives a few houses down from the Y and across from Bollman.

“Bollman was his employer, the Y was his passion,” said Kim Johnson, president of the YMCA of Reading and Berks County.

Leisey and Aument had something in common, both fought in the front line with the Army infantry — Leisey in Korea and Aument in Iraqi Freedom.

Board member Ralph Vedder gave background information on the building and the history of the Y and gave the senator a tour of the facility, noting the growth and expansion of the organization since its early days as a local athletic club.

The Y is again reviving and is hoping for local business support.

Aument said he would like to see “economic diversity and unity among the business community, working for the same goal.” “This could be a hub of community activity.”

Aument asked if the Y has relationships with some of the local businesses, “like Peppridge Farm.”

“Do they contribute?” asked Aument.

“We have started to regain relationships with Bollmans,” said Baas, new program director. “We’re trying to let them know what we can offer them.”

“I was at Peppridge Farms last spring and it seemed as if they have a community, social awareness culture there,” said Aument.

“We feel it will be a really big win-win situation with programs for employees, get people healthier,” said Vedder.

“Ergonomics, all this, it’s a benefit for them,” said Aument.

Aument has two children in elementary school and is active in raising awareness of quality before school care, after school care, and outside school care through the summer months.

“We have seen improvement in kids involved in this care,” said Aument.

Aument, Baas, and Alyssa Raven, executive director of the Y, talked about a shared passion.

Raven described a program the Y would “love” to offer called “seventh grade initiative.”

“It’s an after-school program geared for seventh graders and many of the Ys offer it at no cost,” said Raven. “We reached out to the school about a year ago and asked if we can do it. The answer was ‘no’.”

“Hopefully in the future we can support the funding for that,” said Raven.

Aument showed a particular interested in the program and wrote the name as a note.

“Studies show that seventh grade is a pivotal time in their development when they start to diverge and engage in risk behaviors which includes drug abuse, pregnancy, general illegal behavior,” said Baas.

Aument asked if kids would be helped with homework and tutoring in the program.

“The kids would get a healthy snack, and then they are required to do their homework here,” said Raven.

“I’m really excited about this, this is fantastic,” said Aument. “I will be mindful of this when the after school caucus reconvenes.”

“It is heartwarming to see years of community efforts and cooperation continue to come together in places like our community pool, YMCA, area library and other areas to serve our residents in 2016 and beyond!” said Vedder.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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